Arreola didn't punch enough to beat Klitschko

Arreola didn't punch enough to beat Klitschko

Published Sep. 27, 2009 11:57 a.m. ET

As endings go, this wasn't a good one. I refer not to an apparently premature stoppage — the corner throwing in the towel after ten rounds in a heavyweight championship fight — but to the sight of Cristobal Arreola sobbing in the ring.

There is something especially disconcerting about a big man weeping. It's even worse when that man is a likable sort. Finally, and most disturbing of all, was the sight of his 6-year-old daughter, Danae, crying at ringside.

Heavy handed

Klitschko vs. Arreola

Photos: How Cris Arreola didn't fall after some of Vitali Klitschko's big punches is a mystery. Check them out for yourself.

"I'm sorry guys," said Arreola, his face swollen but uncut from the beating he suffered at the hands of Vitali Klitschko.

I was sorry, too. I like Arreola. I like the idea of Arreola, with his good humor and his inky, tatted torso, and yes, his talent. The 28-year-old from Riverside, Calif., had a chance to become the first heavyweight champion of Mexican descent at Staples Center on Saturday night. But for all the affection directed toward him, I couldn't help but thinking: It's a little late for apologies.

Yes, as it turned out, Arreola had a puncher's chance. But not if he didn't punch. Vitali Klitschko is a tough, long, experienced champion. But he's also mechanical (that sweeping, bent-arm uppercut looks like he's bowling) and vulnerable, especially with his right hand dangling at his side. From where I was sitting, Arreola would have shed fewer tears if only he'd thrown more left hands with the title on the line.

He had a little success with the jab, and more when he doubled it. I gave him the fourth round; two of the three the judges gave him the eighth. But he was outjabbed, according to CompuBox, 519 to 224. The guy who wanted turn the fight into a brawl threw just 107 power shots, easily less than half of those hooks. In fact, the punch I'll remember as indicative of the fight came at the very end, with the seconds dwindling in the 10th, and what would prove final, round. The fighters were near the ropes when Arreola began to throw a hook — and then didn't. He pulled it back.

This much is due Cris Arreola: he can take a better punch than anyone knew. "A great, great chin," said Klitschko. "He took a couple of very hard punches to the head, but he still stood. ... I was shocked."

The magnanimous victor didn't end there, either. "Cris Arreola has all the skill to be a world champion."